Second Thoughts Game #108: White Sox 1, Indians 6,
All of the alliteration and end rhyme in the world cannot truly describe how important Masterson has been for the Tribe’s resurgence this season. Obviously, Kluber, Kazmir and Ubaldo’s leaps have been important but with Justin it is beyond the lines embedded in leadership.
At the outset of the season as we highlighted key performers it is clear that Masterson was near the top if not at the top of the list. Quite simply, in order to complete Justin would have to be a top of the rotation starter. To date he has been everything you could ask for thanks to an improved slider and increased control.
What has been really incredible has been Masterson’s elevating strikeout rate. Justin’s career K/9 is 7.39, this season it sits at 9.19 which is an absolutely mammoth shift. You can see this manifested in terms of league leaders as he is fifth in MLB in strikeouts at 160. In front of guys like Hernandez, Sale, Verlander, Lee and Hamels.
Returning to the idea of leadership, his stability of success and temperament offers a lot of value as he stands at the front of a rotation that includes youth (Kluber and McAllister) and a languishing head case (That Ubaldo guy).
Personally, I abhor the measurement of a pitcher by W/L record, however, if one must do so he is fourth in MLB in wins. Masterson has gone deeper in games this season 156.2 IP (3rd in MLB) which has given him more decisions.
It also speaks to how much Francona trusts him late in games and his ability to limit the stress on a mediocre Indians bullpen.
In terms of definition, I fear throwing the tag of ace on a pitcher as I believe that should be held for a limited club with elite production rather than just the best pitcher on every team. However, Masterson at least for this season is starting to move towards that level.
For now we will just call him an essential leader pitching at an elite level on the front end of a rotation competing for a division title.
The Two Headed Monster: Gomes/Santana
The following are the production lines of Carlos Santana and Yan Gomes when they play at catcher. It includes some overlap as we are 108 games in and they have 109 total “games” because of substitution. I ignored Marson and Omir Santos because their contributions were the definition of negligible.
Carlos Santana: 67 G, 9 HR, 32 RBI, .266 BA, .385 OBP, wRC+ 144
Yan Gomes: 42 G, 7 HR, 26 RBI, .301 BA, .335 OBP, wRC+ 141
Total: 109 G*, 16 HR, 58 RBI, .279 BA, .369 OBP, 143 wRC+
Averaging wRC+ is foolish so that may be ignorable; however, the sum total of the two is fairly impressive, especially considering the total production compared to catchers. Most teams are faced with a large dropoff in production from 1st string to 2nd string catcher which has its effect because of the amount of rest a catcher needs throughout the season.
There are three thoughts surrounding the catching situation and the two players specifically that I would like to highlight.
1. Santana should continue to play a large portion of the time around the plate but it should be controlled at about 55%. This is because his offensive value outweighs his defensive mediocrity by a large amount. However, on the other hand, Gomes has to be in the lineup more frequently, especially behind the plate.
Gomes' catch and throw skills are miles beyond Santana’s and one could argue he is a better blocker as well. Game calling is harder to evaluate and take someone with a superior intellect to judge. The important clarification being that this is not because Santana is not an unbelievable value behind the plate because of his offense, but because of Gomes' above average abilities behind the plate and his offensive outburst.
2. The DH spot should rotate through the following: Gomes/Santana, Aviles, Giambi and Reynolds. The DH rotation as well as the increased catching duties allowing Gomes to play at least 70% games as the season winds down.
Obviously, Gomes could be a small sample size genie but there have been some legitimate improvements like plate discipline and contact rate that leads us to believe some of it is sustainable. Unless Reynolds gets hot or the Tribe adds a bat during the waiver period, Gomes should continue to grab a larger portion of Mark’s at bats.
3. Jeff Ellis highlighted this well in his evaluation of Indians catching over the last three years, but Santana has become an underrated player by Indians fans because our expectations of him became irrationally high. His production, particularly his elite ability to get on base is impressive. I am about to beat a dead horse, and it is not because I dislike Asdrubel Cabrera or because of his middling production this season, but Carlos Santana needs to be hitting cleanup.
Yes he has struggled there before but this is a different team with more protection, and the leadership to allow him to be comfortable. 95% of Carlos Santana is the second best hitter on this team right now, so shift him to the four.
Up Next: Indians @ Marlins 7:10 PM ET.
Marlins phenom Jose Fernandez faces off against the Tribe’s enigmatic Ubaldo Jimenez. The question is can the U build on his dominant eight inning start and go deep into a game or will his struggles to pitch efficient resurface.
Interact with Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @MichaelHattery